My Vedic Kitchen
The Influence of Tastes
How many of us think about the taste of our food?
I mean actually focus on the taste of the food we eat. I find that people almost always describe tastes in relative, very general ways. For instance, if a person is asked to describe dessert, it's often a general description — too sweet, or delicious — and the entrée could be too spicy, or bland, or good. Or, like my daughter, who described her food tasting "up and down and round and round!" The fact is, in our rushed lives, we rarely think about taste as a subject on its own, with its own distinct, unique, delicious identity.
Not only does ayurveda recognize taste as one of the important values of food; it also regards it as a doorway to personal health, because it influences our core state of balance. In other words, taste has medicinal value in Maharishi Ayurveda.
According to ayurveda, six tastes can be ascribed to all foods. These are: sweet, salty, bitter, astringent, pungent and sour. All six are needed to balance a meal, and hence to balance your individual nature or in Sanskrit, your prakriti. How much of each is needed by your individual body will depend on whether you are a Vata, Pitta or Kapha or a combination thereof. This constitutional arrangement is called your dosha in Maharishi Ayurveda.
Let's look at one of these tastes individually.
Sweet - ah!!! The universal favorite! How many of us are familiar with those sweet cravings? One of the first ayurvedic cookbooks I ever read, called The Ayurvedic Cookbook by Amadea Morningstar with Urmila Desai, has this sentence in it, and I quote "There is a relieved feeling of 'aah' that comes from sweet." That always makes me smile, because it's so true!
Sweet is made up of the elements earth and water, and therefore, in moderation, balances Vata. These same elements cool Pitta. Kapha, on the other hand, already possesses these elements and therefore is easily aggravated by sweet. An exception to this rule is honey. It is warm and dry and can be used in moderation by Kapha people.
Did you know honey should never be heated? If you need to add it to something hot, please do so right at the end, immediately before serving. Store it at room temperature.
More on the Ayurvedic Six Tastes
My Vedic Kitchen newsletter contributor Monica Kar is an educator, parent and skilled ayurvedic cook, in Fairfield, Iowa.
The sole purpose of these articles is to provide information about the tradition of ayurveda. This information is not intended for use in the diagnosis, treatment, cure or prevention of any disease. If you have any serious acute or chronic health concern, please consult a trained health professional who can fully assess your needs and address them effectively. If you are seeking the medical advice of a trained ayurvedic expert, call or e-mail us for the number of a physician in your area. Check with your doctor before taking herbs or using essential oils when pregnant or nursing.